By Dan Levine
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Four major tech companies including Apple and Google have agreed to settle a large antitrust lawsuit over no-hire agreements in Silicon Valley, according to a court filing on Thursday.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Tech workers filed a class action lawsuit against Apple Inc (AAPL.O), Google Inc (GOOGL.O), Intel Inc (INTC.O) and Adobe Systems Inc (ADBE.O) in 2011, alleging they conspired not to poach one another's employees in order to avert a salary war. Trial had been scheduled to begin at the end of May on behalf of roughly 60,000 workers in the class.
The companies had acknowledged entering into some no-hire agreements but disputed the allegation that they had conspired to drive down wages.
The case, closely watched in Silicon Valley, was largely built on emails among top executives, including late Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who agreed not to approach each others employees with job offers.
For instance, after a Google recruiter solicited an Apple employee, Schmidt told Jobs that the recruiter would be fired, court documents show. Jobs then forwarded Schmidt's note to a top Apple human resources executive with a smiley face.
Representatives for the companies were not immediately available for comment. An attorney for the plaintiffs, Kelly Dermody of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, in a statement called the deal "an excellent resolution."
Apple, Google, Adobe and Intel in 2010 settled a U.S. Department of Justice probe by agreeing not to enter into such no-hire deals in the future. The four companies had since been fighting the civil antitrust class action.
Walt Disney Co's Pixar and Lucasfilm units (DIS.N) and Intuit Inc (INTU.O) had already agreed to a settlement, with Disney paying about $9 million and Intuit paying $11 million.
The case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California is In Re: High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation, 11-cv-2509.